CHP officer's wife waited until children opened Christmas presents to tell them dad had died
TRACY, Calif. (Leigh Martinez/KTVU) - California Highway Patrol Officer Andrew Camilleri lived a life of faith and service in his hometown of Tracy. Not long ago he fulfilled a dream to become a CHP officer. Tragically, Camilleri died while on duty Christmas Eve in Hayward, while patrolling the highway against drunk drivers.
Friends say he was supposed to be home the next morning with his family for Christmas. But he was killed, allegedly by a driver who was drunk and high.
Friends told KTVU his wife waited until after their three children opened their Christmas presents to tell them their 33-year-old dad was killed in an accident.
Camilleri and his family have been attending Mission City Church for more than seven years. The church's pastors say both Andrew and his wife Roxy served in youth ministry. Andrew also played bass in the church band with Pastor Michael Serrato.
"We'd lock eyes and not at each other 'that was cool' or 'good job. Andrew'. Or something that would connect us as musicians," Serrato said.
"He had this coolness about him. He was a chill guy. He loved to have fun and he was nutty and crazy. Him and Roxy were amazing to be around," said Doug Diestler a pastor at Mission City.
In just the last few years, he made a career change: to fulfill a long time dream of becoming an officer. Diestler said Camilleri was excited about the career change and his decision to join CHP.
"It's something that he had an honest heart to do since high school. It was a dream for him and at the place of life they were at, they just went all in," said Diestler.
Around Tracy, Camilleri's death devastated many who knew him. Dozens of people were waiting at Fry's Memorial Chapel when a procession escorting the officer's body arrived Tuesday evening.
“Just hearing about this, I think about the family. I can’t fathom what they must be going through, [for it to happen] right before Christmas,” said Stephen Manrubia, one of the community members who came to pay his respects.
An employee at Raley's said he loved speaking with him at the store and had recently confessed to the officer that he once had a DUI and to be careful working at night.
"We just had a conversation about DUIs, a conversation about being safe out there, the things people do and don't take responsibility for," said Ronald Goehring, a Raley's employee.
Camilleri was parked on the shoulder of southbound Interstate 880 for the CHP’s “maximum enforcement period,” on Christmas Eve, trying to protect the public from drunk drivers, when his SUV was hit. The CHP says the driver of the car, a 22-year-old man from Hayward, was under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Camilleri’s partner, who was in the driver’s seat of the cruiser, survived.
Friends described Camilleri as a selfless hero, and the man behind the badge he was a gentle family man with a 12-year-old daughter and two young sons.
"He was such a selfless dad. He would do anything for his kids. And such a hands-on dad," Serrato said.
And though his life was cut short, they say he achieved the dream and the family he always wanted.
"Sometimes the greatest tragedy is a wasted life. Andrew didn't waste his," said Diestler.
The CHP established a fund for Camilleri's family and says his funeral is this Saturday in Stockton. You can find more details here.